The Definitive Guide to Crib Buying

Looking for the perfect crib? We’ve done the research for you! Learn about everything from double drop-side releases to safety concerns when choosing a crib for your little one.

Next to cuddling in your arms, your new baby will spend most of his time tucked in his crib, and with luck, he’ll be sleeping soundly! Finding the right crib is a matter of matching your personal style with your options and your checkbook. This guide will help you find the right crib to meet your needs and your baby’s.

Options, Options: Finding What You Want in a Crib

When it comes to shopping for a crib, a smart start is to review crib options. Consider this review a crib anatomy lesson! Just as on a bed, the crib’s taller front and back sides are the headboard and the footboard. Usually, they are the same height and design. The sides of the cribs are referred to as just that&emdash;the sides, with the top part being the “sidebar. You place your baby in the crib from the side, and if one or both of these sides come down they are referred to as “drop-sides.” The bars on the cribs are also called “slats.”

Consider what would make you most comfortable with a crib. Chances are you will be carrying a sleeping baby into the nursery, sometimes in the dark. How are you going to put her into the crib? Do you want one crib side to come down, or do you want the option of both sides coming down? For those thinking beyond the baby years, you can choose cribs that convert into toddler beds and even form a headboard and footboard for a bed. Keep in mind, the more options you choose, the greater expense and the more hardware you’ll have to put together, sometimes making the crib less stable.

Single Drop-Side

With this option, three sides of the crib are stationary, and the fourth side can be raised or lowered&emdash;a good choice if the crib will be against a wall, with the drop-side facing out for easy access. These cribs are generally very sturdy.

Double Drop-Side

Both sides of the crib can be raised and lowered in this option, while the headboard and footboard remain stationary. If your crib will be in the middle of the room, or if you will need to put the baby in the crib from both sides, consider a double drop-side crib.

Shin Drop-Side Release

Worried about balancing your baby while placing her in the crib? Try the shin drop-side release. Instead of using your hands to lower the sidebar, you push in with your shin and use minimal pull with your hand. Getting the hang of this release may take practice, but it may be easier for you than a standard drop release.

Kickbar Drop-Side Release

As the name implies, you use your foot to release the sidebar on this style of crib. Again, the goal is to minimize disturbing your baby while putting her in the crib. You lift slightly on the sidebar while using your foot to push against the drop-side release. This method takes a little coordination, but it keeps your hands free.

Regardless of which options interest you, it’s key to try them out before you buy. You may think you absolutely need a certain kind of release only to find that another kind better suits your height or even where you’ll place the crib in baby’s nursery. Keep in mind that you will not always be putting a sleeping baby into the crib&emdash;and once your child can pull himself to stand he’ll give those sidebars a rigorous workout!

Multiple Position Mattress Springs

As your baby grows, you will need to lower the mattress from the higher position designed for a newborn to lower levels for your toddler. Most cribs have at least two positions, and some have up to four. Make sure that you understand how to adjust the various levels. You may also be given the choice between metal springs and wooden slats.

Convertible Cribs

Convertible cribs are billed as “more bang for your buck.” These are the Mercedes of the crib world. Not only are they cribs, but toddler beds too. Some can go through more transformations from cribs to daybeds to double beds. If youre planning on investing a lot of money into a crib, this option might make sense for you since your crib can last from newborn stage and indefinitely into childhood.

Keep in mind that if you plan on having more children, you may need to keep the crib as a crib, not a double bed&emdash;though your youngest could take advantage of the bed option after the crib isn’t needed for a baby. In addition, the crib style you may have been in love with while pregnant might get boring after a few years, so choose carefully. You will need to keep track of the various parts required for the transformations, so mark them and bundle them together before storing them. Lastly, consider exactly how you want to use your crib and if the added expense and hardware is worth the option.

Crib Drawers

Want to create more storage area in your nursery? Think about adding a drawer under the crib. That empty space can easily be turned into a spot to store a favorite quilt or hide an extra supply of diapers.


Plan on moving the crib around in the baby’s room? Casters are the metal or plastic wheels at the bottom of the crib’s four posts that can make changing baby’s bedding a breeze.

Adding Personality: Crib Furniture Styles and Finishes

A crib gives your baby’s nursery personality. With numerous styles available, you should be able to find exactly what you need. Babies ‘R’ Us, the self-proclaimed baby superstore, lists four styles of nursery furniture in its baby resource guide. These styles cover most of what you’ll find in larger baby furniture outlets and department stores. Specialty furniture shops will likely have their own spin on these styles. Have fun shopping around!

  • Traditional: Cribs in this category have decorative touches that give the nursery a homey feel. So called “traditional” cribs include some of the most popular styles such as Jenny Lind, which are characterized by their spindled slats and dark wood finishes.
  • Colonial: The colonial style draws from its European roots, meaning you can expect more engravings, scrollwork, and other woodwork on these cribs.
  • Shaker: Simple, clean lines define the shaker style. Look for durable, solid construction.
  • Contemporary: Contemporary style encompasses those cribs that are less decorative and more elegant. These cribs are often in lighter wood finishes or even constructed of metal.

No matter which furniture style you choose you will also have a choice of wood finishes. Consider first whether you want a hardwood, usually oak, which is stronger and more resilient than softwood, like pine, which tends to be less expensive. Either wood comes in a variety of finishes. A few are listed here:

  • Oak: A popular choice both in wood and in finish, oak is a medium brown, tan color.
  • Natural: A natural finish brightens a nursery and highlights the look of the wood.
  • Cherry: A darker, redder finish will add a subtle touch of warmth and color to your nursery.

Safe in Bed

Your favorite choice for a crib may seem perfect to you, but look at it from your baby’s viewpoint. Can this part come off easily? Can little fingers get squished here? Although almost all cribs adhere to mandatory and voluntary safety standards, improper assembly and other hazards are still possible.

The Standards

Make sure the crib slats are spaced no more than 2 and 3/8-inches apart. When dropped, the sidebar should be at least nine inches above the mattress to prevent your baby from falling out. Check that the mattress you select fits snugly into the crib. Tiny hands, fingers, and heads can easily get stuck between a mattress and the crib&emdash;so you should not be able to put more than two finger widths between the mattress and the crib.

Go over your crib for any loose parts including those that are part of the construction and those that may be part of the design. Any decorative elements, such as knobs, pose a choking risk.

It’s also important you check for the JPMA seal; the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certifies manufacturers who comply with both mandatory and stricter voluntary standards. Don’t buy a crib not approved by the JPMA.

Buy New, Avoid Used

In June 1999, regulations went into effect to make cribs safer. Older cribs and heirlooms may seem fine, but they may be missing hardware or have other safety hazards. Avoid them.


Cribs should not be placed near anything that a child might pull down or become entangled in. Windows, heaters, fans, lamps, cords, and other hazards should be kept out of reach from the crib.

Save Money on Your Crib

Good news! According to the latest Consumer Reports ratings for cribs, done in May 2004, one of the top-rated models (ranked second) was also the least expensive. In fact, CR recommends that parents purchase the less expensive “no frills” model, which they found to be safer, sturdier, and easier to use than the more expensive choices. The Delta Luv Jenny Lind-style crib, which sells at a little over $100, received top marks and fell just behind the Bellini brand Isabella crib that sells for over $500.

Opt For Less Pricey Brands

High-end manufacturers such as Bellini and Bassett offer quality cribs, but you can find the same standard of safety and features in less pricey brands like Delta Luv, Fisher Price, and Evenflo.

Suggest a Baby Shower Gift

Is someone giving you a baby shower? Don’t be shy about suggesting a crib as a group gift. Your friends will be giving you something you’ll really use, and you won’t have to return any repeat gifts. Grandparents, parents, and in-laws are often happy to buy a crib for a new baby&emdash;especially if they know mom has done her research!

Shop Sales and Use Coupons

Many larger baby superstores periodically offer discount coupons of up to 20 percent off a single item. Take advantage of sales and look for discounts on last year’s models.

Deliveries and Warranties

Before buying any crib, look it over carefully in the store. Ask questions. Remember that some stores can take up to 12 weeks to deliver certain crib models. If you want the crib delivered to your home, make sure it will arrive in plenty of time before your baby. Consider whether you are going to assemble the crib yourself or whether the delivery service people will assemble it for you, for an additional charge, usually somewhere around $30.

Many larger stores offer a limited time warranty (some around three months) in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty (usually around a year). Read through the warranty and follow its guidelines. Keep your receipt with the warranty information.

Once you’ve found that perfect crib, you can sit back and imagine your newborn curled up sleeping in it. Before too long you won’t have to imagine&emdash;your baby will be there!

Twelve Quick Questions to Help You Choose a Crib

  1. Where will the crib be placed in the nursery?
  2. Do you plan on putting the baby in the crib from one side or both?
  3. How long do you plan on having your child in the crib (most are moved to toddler or regular beds between the ages of two and three)?
  4. Will the crib be used for more children?
  5. Do you want the crib to convert into a bed later?
  6. What kind of feel do you want to create in your nursery?
  7. What kind of look do you want? Do you like classic styles or do you want something more unique?
  8. Do you like darker wood finishes or do you want something more natural or even painted?
  9. Have you reviewed all of the safety concerns about cribs so that you know what to avoid?
  10. How much money do you plan on spending on a crib?
  11. When do you need the crib to arrive in your nursery?
  12. Do you feel comfortable assembling your crib or do you need someone else to do it?

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